woman sending messages through a pneumatic tube system
PHOTO: Esther Bubley

Anyone involved in creating and managing documents understands how quickly things can turn chaotic when multiple contributors and stakeholders are involved. Unfortunately, many businesses still operate the same way they did a decade ago: emailing Word files and PDFs across teams to collect input and approvals. 

These archaic ways of working no longer cut it.

Drowning in Information Assets

IDC estimates that an enterprise of 1,000 knowledge workers wastes $5.7 million annually, according to its Technology Spotlight, The Future of Knowledge Management: Agile, Governed and AI-ready Componentized Content Services, May 2019 (sponsored by my firm, SDL). The report found that knowledge workers are searching for (but not finding) information, and spend 10 hours per week creating new information assets — only to learn that similar assets have already been created by someone else. The report cites the example of an insurance firm, which needed to update the down payment amount in its policies and found it took six people searching for a week to find and replace 26 instances across its 35,000 page document library — only to later discover more instances that needed changing. 

Businesses simply can’t operate this way, particularly when the amount of content they’re creating is growing exponentially. It will expose them to risks and violation of compliance standards.

So what’s the answer? A structured content environment, also referred to as a Component Content Management System (CCMS), allows organizations to easily create, reuse, share, search and deliver multilingual content to any channel or AI-device or application, helping to avoid duplicate content and inconsistencies that can impact the brand. But usually authoring and contributing to structured content isn’t easy, and exclusively reserved for only a few within an organization that have the skills to operate XML-editing tools.

Related Article: The Content Imperative: Capturing Value With XML Structured Content

How to Make Structure Content Accessible to Non-Technical Contributors

While a structured content environment provides the answer, companies also need a way to involve non-technical contributors. That’s where easy authoring tools can help. If you’re looking at easy authoring tools, here are six features that any tool should include:

  1. Easy-to-Use Interface: Creating and editing documents within a structured content environment is normally kept to only a few within an organization to maintain the componentized nature of the content while ensuring integrity and version control of a document. However, an annual report, for instance, would need contributions from finance, as well as investor relations and legal teams. Likewise a technical document would need input from multiple engineers — who don’t necessarily have the knowledge required to edit structured content. An easy authoring tool must open up collaboration to anyone in an organization that acts as a Subject Matter Expert (SME), and the only real way of achieving this is through an interface that hides away the underlying XML structure, and presents the components in a full-document view that can be edited as if it were a Microsoft Word document.
  2. Dedicated Areas to Draft and Review Content: Convoluted processes involving PDF markups, emailing documents, etc, simply won’t cut it in complex content environments. It’s important that any easy authoring tool offers dedicated — and separate — workspaces for authors to create content, and contributors to review and edit content. Contributors should be able to access essential features based on their role and permissions, and in the context of the whole document they should be presented with the sections they need to edit, while they cannot modify other sections. 
  3. API-driven Approach to Integration: Integration is key for any easy authoring tool. You should be able to integrate with other enterprise tools to automate tagging, style, tone and word choice using corporate style guides, terminology and taxonomies. By integrating with QA-enabling technology, you can also then reinforce quality standards and check content quality while it is being authored. 
  4. Advanced Search Functionality: It’s crucial that any tool offers the ability to search content and assets across an organization. But to gain real value tools should include the ability to search contextual content, and proactively offer users content suggestions for reuse. This will go a long way to reducing wasted time creating content, only to find out multiple versions already exist elsewhere in the organization.
  5. Integration with Language Technologies: Content is now generally being created for three key audiences: employees, customers and partners. The global nature of business these days means that content needs to be available in the reader’s own language. Integration with translation and language technologies within an easy authoring tool is key, and will enable brands to engage with these audiences across any language or market.  
  6. Format-Free AI-ready Content: Authors should be able to create content only once for use across any format and output, including AI applications, smart or connected-devices. This should include chatbots, speech systems and any device that customers use now and in the future.  

There’s currently a big trend around opening up structured content authoring systems to a nontechnical audience. It’s no surprise why. By allowing contributors and SME’s to write and review content in a componentized manner, organizations can be far more agile, and work iteratively rather than in the traditional waterfall method. This will help today’s enterprises manage and deliver business-critical information — rules, policies, procedures, product information and more — at scale and in multiple languages. As a global business, this will transform not just your content operating model, but also your people, empowering them to become knowledge workers where collaboration is at the center of everything they do.

Related Article: How Content Intelligence Enhances Your Digital Transformation Strategy